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Changing Substrate During Cycling?


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Hello all, I just recently got into goldfish keeping (and have been too shy to post!).

Right now I'm working on cycling my new 40 gallon tank. It's slow going, but I don't have anything to seed it with since my little 10 gallon never had any decorations.

In either case, I went out and bought gravel when I was first setting up, but have since decided I would much rather have sand because the fish won't be able to "choke" on it (something I've had to deal with before!), along with some other reasons. I know that some beneficial bacteria colonize in the gravel, so I'm wondering if I should just wait for the tank to cycle to keep from delaying the cycling process, or if it won't really change much if I do the switch now.

I'm on week three of cycling the tank. The ammonia is currently at about 4ppm, and (of course) 0 nitrates. I can't test for nitrites, unfortunately, as I haven't been able to find a test at the store for them.

Thank you in advance for the help. :)

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Hello & welcome!

What did you do with the filter from the 10 gallon? If you have it and it's still running, you can add to the 40 gallon to run alongside with the new filter for a week or two, and you should have instant cycle, assuming that your old tank was cycled.

Other than that, I would say change the substrates now while you are still early in your fishless cycling. It MAY set you back a little bit of time, but it will be better than having to remove substrate later and then getting a cycle bump. Since you are still early in the cycling process, I don't think you would lose too much time.

Also, measuring nitrites is crucial during cycling. The API freshwater master kit does pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. I recommend it highly :)

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Go ahead and change it. This would only be a concern in an established, already cycled, tank.

Where are you in FL? Someone here is likely to know a source of a test kit near you.

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If you can't find a kit in a lfs or pet store try e-bay, amazon or even a chain-pet store's website (like Pet co)

I recently lost my color-chart, but it's a good thing I know what colors are "safe" :rofl

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The filter for my 10 gallon is still in it. I have my redcap oranda, Friend, waiting to move into his new home. Otherwise I would have done that. Would it be a good idea to put a new filter in my 10 gallon, and put the old one into the new tank even if it's a bit too small? I would still need to get one that fits properly later on, but I'm not sure how that affects it, or if it's a silly idea.

I suppose in either case I'll be going out to buy some sand soon, I just wanted to make sure since the process is already taking quite some time.

I live in Orlando. I haven't been able to find any decent fish stores other than the big chain pet stores, and one salt water store down the block which I suspect is no longer there. :(

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The filter for my 10 gallon is still in it. I have my redcap oranda, Friend, waiting to move into his new home. Otherwise I would have done that. Would it be a good idea to put a new filter in my 10 gallon, and put the old one into the new tank even if it's a bit too small? I would still need to get one that fits properly later on, but I'm not sure how that affects it, or if it's a silly idea.

I suppose in either case I'll be going out to buy some sand soon, I just wanted to make sure since the process is already taking quite some time.

I live in Orlando. I haven't been able to find any decent fish stores other than the big chain pet stores, and one salt water store down the block which I suspect is no longer there. :(

If your fish and filter from the current 10 gallon are going into the 40 gallon, you could always seed the new tank using the old filter and media, as Alex said.

Edit- The first thing you would have to do is verify that the 10 gallon tank is cycled.

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Yup, what Grace said. You can add the fish immediately also, so you'll be fine.

So here is what I recommend...do 2 100% water changes to get all that ammonia out. Change your substrate, use both filters, and add fish after you finish setting up :)

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My 10 gallon is cycled, I've had Friend living in there happily for the past seven months.

In either case, for now I put the media from the old filter in with the new one. Tomorrow I'll do the first water change to see if I can't get rid of some of the ammonia, and do another one the day after.

I also ordered a nitrite kit on ebay, so I'll wait for that to get here in the next few days before doing the big switch, and go to the store tomorrow to get some sand.

Thank you guys so much for your help. I hope everything goes well!

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My 10 gallon is cycled, I've had Friend living in there happily for the past seven months.

In either case, for now I put the media from the old filter in with the new one. Tomorrow I'll do the first water change to see if I can't get rid of some of the ammonia, and do another one the day after.

I also ordered a nitrite kit on ebay, so I'll wait for that to get here in the next few days before doing the big switch, and go to the store tomorrow to get some sand.

Thank you guys so much for your help. I hope everything goes well!

Put the media and filter in when you do the transfer of the fish and not before. Your 10 gallon needs the filter and media for now. If I am understanding what you were saying correctly.

Definitely test the 10 gallon to ensure it is cycled.

You will also need nitrate and pH test kits.

Good luck. :)

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My 10 gallon is cycled, I've had Friend living in there happily for the past seven months.

In either case, for now I put the media from the old filter in with the new one. Tomorrow I'll do the first water change to see if I can't get rid of some of the ammonia, and do another one the day after.

I also ordered a nitrite kit on ebay, so I'll wait for that to get here in the next few days before doing the big switch, and go to the store tomorrow to get some sand.

Thank you guys so much for your help. I hope everything goes well!

Put the media and filter in when you do the transfer of the fish and not before. Your 10 gallon needs the filter and media for now. If I am understanding what you were saying correctly.

Definitely test the 10 gallon to ensure it is cycled.

You will also need nitrate and pH test kits.

Good luck. :)

Okay, I'm just a little wary of the tank being cycled "right away" when I add the old filter and whatnot. (I left the filter on the 10 gallon, and just swapped out the media, I didn't take the whole thing apart just yet.)

I do have a nitrate and ammonia test kit, I was just missing the nitrite because I guess the stores are out or don't carry it at all.

Is a tiny ten gallon filter really enough to cycle a 40 gallon tank right away?

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Pet$mart carries the API Freshwater master kit. If you just want a nitrite test rather than a full kit, you will have to shop online, because I don't think you'll find those at any lfs.

I'm in Winter Springs, (which is rather far out) and I can get to any of the pet big boxes and about 3 independent fish stores/pet stores with fish within 15 minutes. There are more that I have seen but not visited. I've usually been able to get emergency supplies locally, even though I have to pay more for them. What I am still looking for is a decent source of pond supplies and particularly aquatic plants. If you are on the SW side of town, I wouldn't have any idea what is near you. :)

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Please don't swap out the media until you are ready to move the fish over. You will compromise the 10 gallon.

IF your 10 gallon is cycled, you should not have an issue if you seed. I have seen some people have a cycle bump when seeding, but I have never experienced it. It is important that if you do this you test your water daily to ensure that there is no cycle bump.

I recently set up a 45 from a 10 gallon QT with 2 small goldfish. I moved the Aqua Clear 20 filter I had from the 10 to the 45. The tank had 2 new filters. The tank cycled flawlessly.

Again, there are variables, but I have done this many times with success. I have multiple tanks, so I always seed. :)

Edit- When was the last time you tested the 10 gallon and what were the readings?

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Pet$mart carries the API Freshwater master kit. If you just want a nitrite test rather than a full kit, you will have to shop online, because I don't think you'll find those at any lfs.

I'm in Winter Springs, (which is rather far out) and I can get to any of the pet big boxes and about 3 independent fish stores/pet stores with fish within 15 minutes. There are more that I have seen but not visited. I've usually been able to get emergency supplies locally, even though I have to pay more for them. What I am still looking for is a decent source of pond supplies and particularly aquatic plants. If you are on the SW side of town, I wouldn't have any idea what is near you. :)

I'm not far from donwtown Orlando. I haven't lived here long (just under a year), but I haven't seen any lfs, just the big pet stores (I can reach three different ones in about 20 minutes).

It's pretty neat to find someone close by though! Small world. =)

Edit- Grace, I tested my water for both tanks just yesterday. The results were .25ppm ammonia, and 20ppm nitrate. I've been testing the water every day, but haven't done it for today because I just did a 40% water change.

Edit2 - I think 20ppm nitrate, my color chart is only for salt water due to a mix up with the store I bought it from. I don't know how much they vary though.

Edited by Kursti
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Okay, I'm just a little wary of the tank being cycled "right away" when I add the old filter and whatnot.

Right away in that I have nitrate readings with no ammonia and nitrite around the second day. For me, this has been immediate.

As I said before, others have sometimes experienced a cycle bump, but with all of the tanks I have seeded, I have not.

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What matters is the size of the fish load. One fish produces the same amount of ammonia in a 40 gallon tank as in a 10 gallon. Since your fish has been living in that tank for 7 months and is healthy, your filter can handle the waste from that fish. What your little filter won't do is move all of the water in the big tank through the filter media in a short time, which is why you need a bigger filter for a bigger tank. As long as you keep testing and changing water as needed, your fish should do just fine in the big tank with the small cycled filter and the big cycling filter.

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Am I understanding that you have a reading for ammonia in the 10 gallon?

Yes. I just changed 40% of the water, although I don't know if it will make much of a difference. Is this amount enough to keep me from using the other tank's filter?

I don't know if it makes a difference, but I have four plants in the 40 gallon currently. I had read that it doesn't hurt to add them before it's cycled, and they can help the tank cycle a bit faster, and control ammonia. I have two java fern, a wisteria, and an amazon sword.

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Was the .25 ammonia after a water change? Have you been getting ammonia readings in the 10 gallon all along?

Are you able to test your tap water and post the results?

You don't want the ammonia to get above .25. I am suspicious that you have ammonia in a tank you believe to be cycled. A tank that is cycled has no ammonia. Only nitrates. If you have live plants, the nitrates can be very low to zero.

Are you able to verify the nitrate readings? Sorry, I am unable to tell how the saltwater is different. Maybe someone else knows if they are the same or different.

As far as adding plants to the 40 during a fishless cycle, I do not know.

Is the media back in the 10 gallon for now?

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I'm not far from donwtown Orlando. I haven't lived here long (just under a year), but I haven't seen any lfs, just the big pet stores (I can reach three different ones in about 20 minutes).

It's pretty neat to find someone close by though! Small world. =)

Take a trip up to "Fishy Business" in Longwood. Take I4 "East" to SR434. Go east on 434 to Ronald Reagan Blvd. Take a right, and the store will be on your right immediately. (address: 140 S Ronald Reagan Blvd, Longwood) It's a big fish store with some beautiful displays. Expensive, but fun to see.

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Was the .25 ammonia after a water change? Have you been getting ammonia readings in the 10 gallon all along?

Are you able to test your tap water and post the results?

You don't want the ammonia to get above .25. I am suspicious that you have ammonia in a tank you believe to be cycled. A tank that is cycled has no ammonia. Only nitrates. If you have live plants, the nitrates can be very low to zero.

Are you able to verify the nitrate readings? Sorry, I am unable to tell how the saltwater is different. Maybe someone else knows if they are the same or different.

As far as adding plants to the 40 during a fishless cycle, I do not know.

Is the media back in the 10 gallon for now?

I will admit that I don't know if there has been ammonia all along. I've had Friend for about a year and a half now, but only recently started researching about proper care! I figured the ammonia reading was because I wasn't keeping up with the tank like I should have, and had hoped it would go down with frequent water changes. (So far I've been doing 40% every other day)

I tested the water again this morning, still at .25ppm. I went ahead and tested the tap as well, and got zero ammonia. When I go to the pet store later today I'll see if they have anything to remove ammonia from the water.

If the reading ruins my chance at using the filter/media to cycle the new tank, I don't mind. I'm not in a big rush, and I'm mostly concerned about moving Friend into a new and better home, but if there's something I can do to help the process, by all means.

- Shakaho, thank you for the tip. It's a bit far (20 miles!), and I can't ride on the highway, but I'll see if I can convince my boyfriend to make the drive with me. Thank you. =)

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